Skeptic » eSkeptic » August 27, 2014

The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine



A Year of Skeptic Win

At The Amazing Meeting 2014, renowned skeptic and magician Jamy Ian Swiss recaps the year in skeptical wins with passion and humor, demonstrating through numerous examples how we skeptics are making a difference, how and why the world is becoming ever more rational and reasonable thanks to the spread of skepticism and critical thinking, and what you can do to contribute to this progress. Don’t miss this impassioned call for action.


About this week’s eSkeptic

In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald R. Prothero, reviews Deconverted: A Journey from Religion to Reason, by Seth Andrews.

Share this article with friends online.
Subscribe | Donate | Watch Lectures | Shop

The Thinking Atheist Confesses

by Donald R. Prothero

In recent years, there have been a number of “confessional” books describing the deconversion experience of non-believers. The most famous of these is Dan Barker’s (2012) Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists, along with Jerry DeWitt’s (2013) Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism. Daniel Dennett and Linda DaScola’s (2013) book Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind documents a number of ministers and preachers who have lost their faith, yet must keep up appearances or face ostracism and rejection from their families and the entire community.

So far, however, we are only hearing from ministers who lose their faith. Seth Andrews provides an autobiographical account of someone who was deeply involved in fundamentalism. More than just a local minister, Andrews was even more influential as a Christian broadcaster, DJ, and talk-show host on some of the most widely broadcast Christian radio programs in the United States. Not only was his voice heard by far more people than most local ministers can reach, but he wasn’t trained as a theologian. Thus, he can capture the thinking of someone who is a rank-and-file evangelical. Now he has come all the way from one extreme to the other, using his radio and studio skills to create numerous popular YouTube videos and “The Thinking Atheist” podcast, one of the best and biggest of all the secular podcasts out there. Several hundred thousand subscribers download every show, a number few other secular podcasters can match.

Andrews writes in a friendly, relaxed folksy style, just as you hear him on the air, and it suits his humble narrative well. He is a good storyteller and conversationalist not only in his radio work, but on the printed page as well. His autobiographical account begins with his strict religious upbringing, where only Disney and other G-rated movies were allowed, and his parents reacted severely when Seth was exposed to science (such as evolution) in school. In high school, he became a fan of “Christian rock”—the bland, watered-down, theologically safe alternative to real rock’n’roll bands. They imitated and plagiarized nearly every trend in popular music, except with godly lyrics. This led him to his first career at a small radio station in Oklahoma, where he worked his way up to becoming the leading DJ on one of the top Christian rock stations in the land by the mid 1990s.

Then in 1997, the first of a series of events shook his faith: the “John Lennon” of Christian rock, Rich Mullins, was killed in a horrible car accident. Andrews describes his feeling of doubt about God’s mercy, and his horror at the event, as well as the revulsion he felt when everyone began rationalizing it by saying “God called him home.” He further slid away from his safe sheltered world when he lost his job at a conservative Christian radio station and had to take work on another radio station where he was surrounded by secular people all the time.

Then the events of 9/11 made him question God even further, especially when religious leaders like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blamed it on homosexuals and other secular sinners. His ebbing faith remained dormant until 2004, when he saw the video of Christopher Hitchens debating Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Hitchens’ intelligence, quick wit, honesty and candor ran circles around the theologically twisted ideas of the Rabbi. Soon Andrews was reading not only the works of prominent atheists, but also re-reading the Bible and discovering how barbaric it is. Meanwhile, the radio business downsized and went syndicated, so secure full-time jobs in in that industry nearly vanished. Andrews quit and became an independent producer before the axe fell. By 2009, he came out of the theist closet to his family and began to produce short atheist videos for YouTube, which were huge hits. Then he started on his own, self-produced show that is now “The Thinking Atheist.”

The latter part of the book is full of his shrewd observations on religion and atheism. Among the gems are his list of the different categories of believers he’s come to know (the Feeler, the Theologian, the Folklorist, and the Foot Soldier), and his answers to the common questions he gets from the many believers who cannot accept his atheism. As someone who grew up in a slightly different Protestant tradition (Presbyterianism) and grew out of his family’s faith also, I can relate to many of Andrews’ experiences—as can most people who were raised in strictly religious families and have found their way out of their religious shackles.

Even though the book is self-published, it is remarkably cleanly produced with no typographical or grammatical or other errors often found in books without the support of a major publisher. Thanks to the wonders of the modern internet age, people can now self-publish important works such as this and allow Amazon.com and other online booksellers to do the rest. Andrews’ book is a short but very enjoyable read. It is especially of interest to anyone who has made a similar journey from faith to non-belief, or wishes to understand how this process works. END


Bigfoot or Baloney?
Confessions of a Bigfoot Hunter

Chatter about Bigfoot never seems to end. Back in January, we shared with you the confessions of Bigfoot-hunter-turned-skeptic Jonathan Blais. Once fascinated by the prospect of a Bigfoot species, he is now committed to the science behind why people believe in extraordinary claims. To accompany his confessions article, he recently put together this video montage and timeline of the events in the Adirondack wilderness.


7 Comments »

7 Comments

  1. Bob Pease says:

    The statement “I am an Atheist” is much less interesting
    than the reason(s) why it was said.

    When given as a response to the Question
    “What is your religion”
    It is almost almost always taken to mean
    (For fun , I define “Almost never” as ” Having Borel Measure ZERO”)

    “I think you are not too bright if YOU aren’t”

    **********

    In real life, a someone asked me why I was not practicing Christianity anymore.
    My answer was “because I do not believe in the Incarnation”

    the Response was an angry “I suppose that means you think that I should not ?? ”

    I think this is the type of stuff you might expect.

    Doug Hofstadter would have fun with this as being a question that needs to be “Unasked”

    RJP

  2. Paul says:

    Like the Atheists, I believe the religions of the world are nonsense. Most likely created to control people. Unlike the Atheists, I believe that just because the worlds religions are nonsense, doesn’t mean there isn’t a God. Physicists are stuck at the beginning, nothing works. So lets apply a common rule of science, Occam’s Razor. What is the most simple answer?

    • Alan says:

      …and you think and omnipotent, omniscient, immortal being is the simple answer?

    • Bob Pease says:

      “among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected”

      It turns out that the use of Parsimony here sometimes fails to settle the proceedings.
      In any event Occam’s Razor is not a rule of science, but rather a device to allow debate to proceed.

      rjp

    • Don A in Pennsyltucky says:

      While religions can be a way of controlling people, I have trouble imagining a scenario where a devious, conniving, manipulative person had the bright idea of inventing an unseen force as a way of controlling others. I find it far more likely that many people made up stories about how the world came to be and that these stories of unseen forces evolved into forms of “religious” beliefs.

      Some days I am willing to consider the possibility that there is an Aristotelian uncaused cause/prime mover but even when I do, I never think that it knows my name or has any special plan for me. Bokononism is a charming story but the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent seems far more plausible.

  3. Kenn Pappas says:

    The sun is indisputably a god. It warms us, feeds plants, feeds us, gets temperamental through sun storms, and pierces us with a zillion neutrinos per second (I like `zillion’; it’s a number you just can’t argue with; it’s big). St. Augustine came closest to the metaphor of what a god is; well, why not? There are at least 250 billion gods traversing the known universe, aren’t there? Why not a whole population of gods? Why just one? Our local god, the sun, has done a pretty good job so far. The sun is the reason I’m not an atheist. The observation of a seed growing into a large tree is one of Jesus’ metaphors for god’s creation. It’s a nice metaphor. It’s godly. It’s not so bad considering that most people will have difficulty with Avogadro’s number and would rather see god’s activity in a seed. There. That’s what’s wrong with atheism in a nutshell. When asked what I believe in terms of the `god’ issue, I prefer, `non-questioner’; atheism seems no better than fundamentalism; it’s a declaration that those who aren’t atheists are somehow inferior thinkers. Gardeners, though, who are compelled to garden because they believe they are helping the sun to take care of plants, some god’s creation, can be pretty pleasant people. We’re stuck with them, these gardeners. There will never be a world where people don’t seek out a grand creator; who’d really want to live in world like that? Personally, I concluded, after running through the gamut of philosophy (one of my degrees), that there can’t be a god, only to discover that the world was bleak. Now, I’m pretty convinced that the sun is a god, and that there are a lot of gods interacting with all things, gods spewing neutrinos that traverse through us and `read’ our information, and the world got more colorful again. It’s easier to get back to the lab and conduct experiments with a little myth in your pocket once in awhile.

Patreon: a new way to support the things skeptic creates

Get eSkeptic

Science in your inbox every Wednesday!

eSkeptic delivers great articles, videos, podcasts, reviews, event announcements, and more to your inbox once a week.

Sign me up!

Donate to Skeptic

Please support the work of the Skeptics Society. Make the world a more rational place and help us defend the role of science in society.

Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

FREE PDF Download

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

Copyright © 1992–2017. All rights reserved. The Skeptics Society | P.O. Box 338 | Altadena, CA, 91001 | 1-626-794-3119. Privacy Policy.